Champions League Team Previews

In the lead-up to the 3rd annual AFL Europe Champions League, hosted by AFL Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday 1st April, we’ll be taking a quick look at the teams who’ve qualified for the premier club tournament held in Europe.

Next up we have the undefeated 2016 AFL London women’s premiers, the Wimbledon Hawkettes, the Paris Cockatoos, the Zagreb Dockers, the Sussex Swans & the ARFLI Champions, the Leeside Lions.

Wimbledon Hawkettes

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

The Wimbledon Hawkettes were undefeated in the London league in 2016, winning the Grand Final against the North London Lions​. We were consistent on the field throughout the season, using our midfield pressure to push the ball forward, and shutting down the opposition when they came into our end. We also had the honour of being the only London team to have two of our forward line players drafted into the AFLW this season (Don’t worry, they won’t be kicking goals for us in this tournament!).

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

We recently started our pre-season training and many of the girls are looking fast after a productive off-season! We train with our men’s team so have been getting plenty of experience going up against rough opponents, and fighting for every contested footy. The weather in England has been all over the place as well, so we will be ready to play in whatever the Amsterdam skies want to throw at us.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 Ideally to take home the flag, as with any competition the Hawkettes always step onto the field wanting to win! Off the field though, I think the ladies will be looking to have fun and make footy contacts across Europe. We are bringing a big team to Amsterdam as this tournament is also our pre-season tour, and I think we’d like to share how we are growing the sport in London. Tournaments are a great place to recruit new players who come down to watch, and the surest way to keep that going is by putting on an exciting competition and ​following it up with a memorable afterparty.

Player to watch?

Midfielder Chloe Ong​ – Recruited from the sidelines, Chloe spends the Aussie Rules off-season playing football (soccer) in London. She has a great mix of speed and stamina which means she puts a formidable amount of pressure onto her opponents and keeps the footy moving into the forward line.

Paris Cockatoos

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

The Cockatoos are the newest team in the Paris Cocks franchise. The team was created for the 2016 season as we had too much players for just one men’s team. The team did amazingly well last season only losing two games in the regular season. They beat the Cockerels in the semi-finals (very tough and emotional game cause both team are from the club). In the Grand Final they beat the Coyotes in the last quarter. This was by far the toughest game of the season with all the Cockerelles and Cockerels cheering like crazy when they brought the trophy back to Paris!

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

The French Championship is running from September to end of April so the Cockatoos are training twice a week and playing a game pretty much every two weeks. We are definitely ready for the Champions League!

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 We basically approach every game with the expectation of winning so we definitely have our eyes on making the final four. As a team we’re hitting some really good formats we’re bringing a lot of depth so there’s no reason why we can’t challenge the really good teams.

Player to watch?

A couple of our local products are worth looking out for. Julian Dagois and Clement Dony have had really consistent seasons are playing great footy. Jacob Raiwalui is a really exciting talent so it will be fun to cut the big boy loose against quality opposition. Also a couple of our old blokes have wound the clock back this season which has been fun to watch.

Zagreb Dockers

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

We qualified for the 2017 Champions League by becoming champions of Croatia in 2016. The Croatian league of Australian football includes 6 clubs and it lasts from April till October. We were favorites to win the title being the reigning champions from 2015. Also, our squad is very strong and experienced. In the regular part of the competition we finished second but in playoffs we won all games and managed to defend the title, becoming champions for two years in a row.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

The preparation for the Champions League started two months ago. It was very cold in Zagreb so we were training indoors. We will play in the Croatian Cup, so we will have a few matches before coming to Amsterdam.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

Our expectations for the Champions League are to be better than last year when we finished in 9th place. This year we are coming with a full squad and we hope to be at least second in a group. There are no Australians in our team so this is a great opportunity for our players to grow and learn.

Player to watch?

Player to watch is definitely the Captain of Croatian national team, Tomislav Cvetko. He was elected as Best and Fairest of Croatian League in 2016. Tomislav is soon to leave for Australia to play footy there. No doubt he is a star but our team is a compact unit with a lot of talented players and some of them will hopefully be a pleasant surprise at 2017 Champions League.

Sussex Swans

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

Under the leadership of Will Mclean, Sussex Swans grew their numbers significantly in 2016, with most non-Australian first time players. Going into their first game of the Southern England Australian Football League, the Swans suffered a loss against Southampton Titans – fortunately, this would be their last loss of the season. The final game of the season was played against Surrey Stags at the Swans’ home ground in Brighton. The passion and energy of the 2016 new recruits provided Will with enough confidence to put out a rookie team against the much more experienced Stags. The Swans took their eleventh win and the title of 2016 SEAFL Premiers.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

Having committed to the 2017 Champions League in December of last year, the Sussex Swans returned back to skills-training on the first Saturday of January and every subsequent week since, training through rain, sleet and snow. The weather isn’t the only brutal elements the Swans have faced, with a new mid-week HIIT training session leaving the 2017 players fitter, stronger and faster than ever before. Word has spread about the Swans’ hard training and dedication with a strong increase in membership – the Swan’s even welcomed their first ladies players to training in March.

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 The Sussex Swans haven’t trained all through winter with the expectation that winning is not a possibility. This may be the Sussex Swans’ first challenge at the Champions League title, but that doesn’t mean that they are a team to be taken lightly. Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is!

Player to watch?

Boo. One to both watch and hear.


 Leeside Lions

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

Having not won the flag since 2007 and not appearing in a grand final since 2011, the Leeside Lions were perennial underachievers in recent times. 2016 saw a great mix of youth and experience in the Lions ranks as there was great numbers crossed over for the summer period from our sister Uni club, the UCC Bombers. There was a great buzz at trainings and games and we knew 2016 had the potential to be our year. The ARFLI season is played on a carnival basis with each team playing two league games on the same day. The Leeside Lions won the 2016 ARFLI flag on the back of an unprecedented unbeaten season winning 9 from 9 culminating with the defeat of the highly-experienced Belfast Redbacks by double scores, 104-52 on home soil.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

Preparations have been going well, the Lions are training with the UCC Bombers at the moment, recent Fitzpatrick Cup winners. This allows us to challenge ourselves against quality opposition on a weekly basis with great playing numbers. We were also delighted to host the North London Lions for a pre-season game on Saturday 11th March, this was a tough and fair contest but it certainly was very beneficial to both teams with our North London counterparts preparing for their AFL London season and us for the AFL Europe Champions league with the final score as follows:

Leeside Lions 10.8 (68) North London Lions 6.9 (45).

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 The Champions League is unknown territory to us but its something we’re very excited about. There is no point entering a tournament unless you want to win it and I think that’s our mantra for Amsterdam. We’re going to go, enjoy the experience, play as good footy as we can and hopefully that will take us to the latter stages of the comp.

Player to watch?

This is a difficult one as we have guys with plenty of international 9s experience as well as some older club stalwarts and the influx of youth from the UCC Bombers. Players like Paul Murphy and Padraic O’Connell will certainly be players to watch as they are part of the Irish Warriors squad for the upcoming IC17. You have experience with the likes of Eoin O’Sullivan and Cian Quigley who have literary won everything there is to win in the game. For 9s you are looking for the team to perform as a cohesive unit and that’s our aim, no individual players, just one team.


Champions League 2017

The 3rd annual Champions League is set down for Saturday 1st April in Amsterdam, Netherlands. AFL Europe in conjunction with the DAFA and the Amsterdam Devils present the premier club tournament in Europe which sees the champion team from each domestic league descend on the picturesque fields of De Eendracht to do battle and claim ultimate bragging rights as Champions of Europe.

2017 will see the largest contingent of men’s teams making the journey with two-time Champions League winners, the West London Wildcats, looking to make it three in a row.



They’ll be up against a tough group of teams who’ve been training hard to take the crown off the champions of Europe.

For the first time in the tournaments brief history the women’s draw will include club sides. Headlined by the Wimbledon Hawks, it’ll be up to the Paris Cockerelles, Odense Lionesses, Glasgow Sharks and Port Malmo Lynx to show them the strength of women’s footy right across Europe.


Jump onto the event page and follow AFL Europe for more updates as the tournament gets closer.


Tuesday Around the Grounds

Hawks make history and raise funds for St Barnabas House

The Wimbledon Hawks made history at the weekend at their annual Ladies Day. The Hawks took on the North London Lions across all three grades which saw their Premiership and Women’s sides getting the victory and their Social men’s drawing. These results confirmed all three sides making the finals for the first time ever at the same time.

Massive congratulations to the Hawks who also raised an astonishing £800 for St Barnabas House as part of the Ladies Day. A great achievement both on and off the field for the Wimbledon club.

Wimbledon Hawks

Berlin Crocs prove too strong for the traveling Lions

The first round of the AFLG Premiership saw the Berlin Crocs dominate the Rheinland Lions finishing 109 point victors in the Capital. A seven goal to zero opening term all but put the game on ice for the Crocs with forward Luke Edwards finishing up with 8 goals to his name. The final scorecard reading 18.12. 120 to 1.5. 11.

The AFLG Championships also kicked off at the weekend with a huge win by the Hamburg Dockers over the Dresden Wolves, as well as the Frankfurt Redbacks flexing their muscles against SpVgg Freiberg Taipans/Stuttgart Emus.

Crocs v Lions

New Scottish sports star on the horizon

She may have moved from Scotland at the age of 9 but we’ll claim her here at AFL Europe. Jemma Abbott is an up-and-coming AFL Queensland Youth Academy member who has her eyes firmly placed on a spot in one of the AFL Women’s league sides when the national league kicks off next year.

Having represented the Queensland Youth Girls Academy at the National titles in Melbourne earlier this year Jemma could light up the Gabba in the years to come.

Read her full article here:

Jemma Abbott

Bloods share the top with Giants in SARFL

It’s heating up in the Scottish Australian Rules Football League (SARFL) with the Edinburgh Bloods knocking off top placed Greater Glasgow Giants by 80 points at the weekend. This result puts the Bloods level on 16 points with the Giants, with only percent separating the two.

It’s going to be an interesting last couple of weeks in the SARFL with the final makeup of the top four yet to be determined.

Check out the ladder below (as of 9/7/16):


AFL Europe Umpires Course comes to Sweden

On the 23rd of July AFL Sweden in conjunction with AFL Europe are putting on an Umpiring Course to aid those aspiring to become accredited umpires. Shane Hill will be making the journey from London to run the day which comprises both theoretical and practical elements.

This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in developing their knowledge of the game and is not to be missed. For further details, jump over to the official Facebook event linked below.



AFL Europe Match of the Round

Wimbledon Hawks vs Wandsworth Demons – Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Recreation Ground 5/6/16 2pm

There were two standout teams in last year’s inaugural AFL London women’s competition, the Wimbledon Hawks and the Wandsworth Demons. In last year’s four encounters the Demons won 3 out of 4 games including the all-important Grand Final. The final score in that game was 5.3. 33 to 1.2. 8 in favour of the Ladies from Wandsworth.

This Sunday sees the two rivals lock horns for the first time this year for competition points. The Hawks have cruised through the opening rounds of season 2016 winning both games convincingly and accumulating an astonishing percentage of 1625. The Demons, on the back of a large exodus of last year’s premiership side, have had an indifferent start. They lost a close game against the North London Lions in Round 1 and held on to beat a fast-finishing South East London Giants the following week.

Both clubs are doing great work for the growth of the women’s game and have had a huge number of players on the training track each week. On form, the Hawks will go into this game as favourites but with the Demons gelling well together of late it could be anyone’s game. Let’s not forget the added factor of the Epsom Derby taking place the day before and it’s hard not to get excited by the prospect of this game.

Here are the coaches’ thoughts on the big Grand Final Rematch.

Wimbledon Hawks Coach, Tara Lowther:

“I believe the game will be won by the team who can execute the basic skills the best and the team with the best fitness. Unfortunately, we have an extensive injury list but the remaining players are hardworking and hungry for revenge. We are looking forward to a great game.”

Wandsworth Demons Coach, Mitch Skelly:

“I’m really looking forward to the match and an opportunity to take on the Hawks, who are currently the benchmark for women’s footy in London. Their results have been very impressive throughout 2016, so it’s a chance for us Demons to see where we stand in the pecking order early in the season.

Whilst our form has been a little up and down, the excitement generated by some new players such as English Rose, Kiwi Katie, Tessa and Bianca have been the high points. Those four, along with the bulk of our team, are new to Australian Rules football and I can’t wait to see how well we perform as a team once they’ve had a season to catch up with some of our more experienced players like Kate Grabowski, Sarah Townsend and Lauren Coote – stalwarts and legends of AFL London!”



Ben Durance

Women Want Footy

In 2014, Australian Rules football celebrated 25 years of a sporting competition in the country of England. In 2015, Women’s Australian Rules football officially took off with an AFL London Women’s league comprising of four already established men’s clubs each becoming host to a Women’s team. Those founding clubs being: Wimbledon Hawks, Wandsworth Demons, North London Lions and the South East London Giants.

In previous years, only exhibition games had been held for females on AFL London Grand Final day or training sessions for those interested. The development of a women’s league in London only confirms the continual development and interest in the game away from Australia. Even more so with the recent implementation of Women’s AFL matches being played since 2013 between the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons.

Lauren Sparks, a current player for the Wimbledon Hawks, had previous experience playing Aussie Rules football back in Melbourne – 3 years for Melbourne University, representative football for Victoria at the National Championships and Vic Metro. Lauren was also a member of the first two Women’s AFL sanctioned exhibition matches, playing for the Western Bulldogs against the Melbourne Demons. When asked about her knowledge of the league (men or women’s); “before coming over here I didn’t know much at all about the league…I found out they were introducing the first women’s league and that 4 teams would be involved”. As most antipodeans tend to do when moving abroad, a sporting club or organisation is a safe house as a social network. Lauren attributes the Wimbledon Hawks as an accessible way to meet new people, especially with the correlation between the men’s and women’s teams at the club.

Coming from a different Australian Rules football background, Jessie Hayes was part of the Junior Development Program at the Fremantle Dockers and had grown up around the sport. Having minimal knowledge of the Women’s AFL London league before arriving in London, Jessie knew that she would eventually be drawn to a club in one way or another. “Before I came over I had an inkling I would get involved in a club in some way”. She thanks peer pressure from her friend, a North London Lions player, to ‘[encourage] me to get on the other side of the boundary line for once”.

Both players strongly condone the sport as a great way to socialise with other people, and not only at their specific club, but over all the clubs. Many clubs hold joint social occasions to encourage camaraderie between each other – North London Lions and the West London Wildcats jointly host a Thames River Cruise as part of the Wildcat’s Ladies’ Day celebrations. Ladies’ Day is quickly becoming more and more important for the AFL London clubs’ to ascertain their stance as a genuine supporter of further developing and creating awareness of women’s involvement in Australian Rules football.

Without a doubt, the social aspect of the league is a part that everyone enjoys – “It is brilliant to have found such a great family like the Lions. London life wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without the club” Jessie states. As most expats in London can agree, playing Aussie Rules football assists in avoiding a dosage of the ‘Heathrow Injection’ (the sudden weight gain from lack of physical activity when arriving into London).

But where to next for the Women’s AFL London league? The current teams participating in the league are looking to grow their participation numbers and clubs that have yet to field a team would ideally be looking at staking their presences in the league.

“It’s definitely got room to grow, the amount of foreigners that are exposed to it, never seen it before, and then are hooked the minute they try the game, it intrigues people” says Lauren in regards to further expansion of the women’s league. Women’s team are both represented at the Axios Euro Cup as well as the International Cup (World Cup for Aussie Rules football), however there is always the desire to continually expand the participation level for both genders in Europe.

For more information regarding the Women’s AFL London league or any local competitions please head to the Women’s AFL London website.



James Gottschalk